Tunisia saw momentous changes in 2011, including the landslide win of the Ennahda Movement in the country's first democratic election. Expectations are high for what the party can achieve in 2012.
The Ennahda Movement came to power in late October. Tunisians who voted for the religious party see in it a moderate movement that reflects their inclinations and can achieve stability without compromising democracy.
"Tunisian voters found in this movement what they are aspiring for," explained Dr Riadh Sidaoui, who specialises in Islamic movements. "For them, it is a moderate Islamic current that will leave the door of freedoms open for everyone without any restrictions, and that will realise their aspirations thanks to its huge budget."
For Sidaoui, Tunisians' decision was indicative of their desire for a decisive break with the past.
"Ennahda's victory in the Tunisian election embodies the desire of Tunisians for radical change and exclusion of all the faces that dealt with Ben Ali," he said.
University professor and Ennahda supporter Seifeddine Jouini described the party as "a moderate Muslim current that rejects all forms of extremism".
"Moderation is the trait that distinguishes Tunisians and North Africans in general," he said.
Jouini downplayed the fears that Ennahda's victory would turn the regime to an extremist religious rule. The party "has extended its hands to the other components of Tunisian political landscape to lead the country towards democracy, guarantee freedoms and defend human rights", he said.
Student Zied Jabeur concurred. "The movement has confirmed its rejection of totalitarian rule that is based on Islamic sharia, while stressing the need to preserve identity and be open to modernity," he said.
Many pin great hopes on the party to heal the ailing economy and provide job opportunities for youths.
"Ennahda will work as per its integrated programme to overcome the tough economic condition in the country by providing job opportunities, trying to reduce the rate of poverty and eliminating corruption," Chafika Hamrouni said.
Salem Bouzidi, an unemployed young man, said, "I hope that the new government officials will pay attention to our demands, that they won't forget to meet the promises for which we've elected them and to honour the pledges they have included in their election platform."
Economy professor Jamaleddine Nouri expressed optimism that the current elected government would "restore the vitality and activity of various economic sectors and achieving good growth rates given the value of its competencies and experts".
Part of his optimism stems from Ennahda Movement's improved relations with the outside world, especially with the western governments that have changed their view of Islamic parties. This shift, Nouri said, can help strengthen economic relations, build new exporting markets, support partnership agreements and attract the biggest possible number of investors.
"The West's tone towards the Islamic movements has now changed and there is mutual respect between the two sides," said rights activist Mona Sirani. "We have seen this in the statements of officials who expressed their willingness to co-operate and deal with the Islamists in North Africa."
Tunisians need to give the Islamists a chance to "lead the country in this transitional period", she said. "After that, we can judge them to see whether they have failed or succeeded."
This content was commissioned for Magharebia.com